Saturday, April 30, 2011

Game One, One Blogger, One Win

According to the experts, the Lightning aren't even supposed to be playing hockey at this point in the season. With the majority of mainstream media picking the Penguins to have beaten them in the first round it's almost like they are playing with house money at this point.

There are very, very few times that I've ever gambled with "house money". Anyone who has gambled with me in Vegas or the lovely Biloxi, MS knows that I tend to break even at the tables. Which is fine by me.

The Lightning, supposedly weary from a tough 7 game match up with Pittsburgh, ventured into the nation's capital on Friday night to begin their second round series with the Washington Capitals. Much like the first round they aren't given much of a chance to move on. After all, this is "The Year" for the Caps. The year they exorcise their playoff demons and win the Cup with their new committed to defense style of play.

Apparently, no one told the Lightning they were supposed to be the tired team. They jumped out to an early lead as playoff hero Sean Bergenheim jammed home a rebound three minutes into the first period.

If you continue to score I will be forced to thrash you!

Thankfully, the game aired on Vs. which allowed me to watch it a bar on a screen bigger than 15 inches. My co-worked Scott (a Blackhawk self-admitted Caps bandwagon/Ovechkin fan) joined me for some hockey, beer and fried food.

The 3/4 empty bar was showing the draft and around the horn when we got there and it took the manager about ten minutes to remember he promised to switch the the game on for us and another two minutes to actually find the game. Note to all you bar keeps out there - write down the channels for the major sports channels and keep it with the remote. Your sports bars for Christ's sake. Act like it!

With the game on the big screen and a nice soundtrack of Queen, Frank Sinatra and Mister Big provided by the juke box we settled in to watch a pretty fun playoff game.

The Caps would find their legs throughout the first and second period, even building a one goal lead after Eric Fehr found himself alone in front of Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson and roofed the puck past the ageless goalie.

From their on out, though, the Lightning outworked the Caps. While the red-clad fans of the Southeast Division champions would say that their team was unlucky or didn't get the bounces, truth is that their boys didn't play hard enough to win.

The Lightning won the battles along the boards, blocked shots and frustrated the Capitals power play throughout the second half of the game. Three of the four goals scored (the 4th being an empty netter) were from getting in front of young goaltender Michal Neuvirth and jamming home pucks.

Tampa Bay also showed that they are more willing to press the attack then they did against Pittsburgh. A wise move as sitting back and allowing Washington to shoot at will is not a great plan. The Caps do have finishers and can score goals.

The Lightning played their game plan to perfection Friday night despite losing two players for significant time. Simon Gagne left in the first after a hard, but legal check by Scott Hannan led to Gagne bouncing his head off the ice.

Later in the game stalwart defenseman Pavel Kubina had his head driven into the glass behind the net by forward Jason Chimera which might lead to the Washington winger getting a call from the league office. The hit sidelined Kubina for the rest of the match, his status for Sunday's affair has not been updated.

This is what happens when M A B is forced to play defense.

Can the Lightning steal another game in Washington before heading back to the beaches of Tampa Bay? As long as they continue to play their game, yes. The question is will Washington adjust and tighten up their playmaking and stop turning over the puck.

Three Stars:

- Steve Downie - Good Steve Downie provided a goal and assist in the game and now has 9 points in 7 games for the Lightning. If his name wasn't Steve Downie would he be included in the early Conn Smythe talk?

- Bergenheim and Dominic Moore - These two continue to provide pressure against their opponents. A solid third line that can chip in points in the playoffs is an important key for success.

- Roloson - Steady as ever. After some juicy rebounds in the first two periods, he locked in down in the third and ended up turning away 25 shots in the victory.

Turning Points -

- Brooks Laich kicking in the puck. The disallowed goal halted Washington's momentum and allowed the Bolts to stay in the game.

- Alex Semin hitting the post. A gaping wide open net for the noted Lightning killer and he hit the iron dead on. The post preserved the one goal lead for Tampa.

Roloson uses telekinesis to direct the shot off the post.

- Steven Stamkos scores on the power play. The game winner gets the young sniper on the board early in the series and keeps the press from issuing "Seen Stamkos?" columns.

Prediction for Game Two. The Caps right their ship, score on a couple of power plays and win 4-2.

For the last time it's Boucher not Le Chiffre!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Eulogy in Black and Gold

Instead of the back and forth for the previous games I give you Jay's thoughts only.

Sad Penguin

As a die hard hockey fan, when your team loses in the playoffs, it is 6 months of anticipation down the drain. Since I can remember I make it a priority in my life, not just to watch the Pens, but to see every shift of the 82 regular season games and the playoffs. My job requires me to travel and with that I have been fortunate to see my team play in Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit, Columbus, Minnesota, Chicago, and many other cities. It also means that I will travel to a lot of sports bars on the road to watch the Pens. I can probably tell you every sports bar between Ottawa and western Michigan that has the NHL Package. My wife will tell you that the reason I care about it so much is because it is my passion, and she is right but it is a lot more than that. I have had Penguins season tickets for 12 years and if I am in town, I am at the game right next to my dad.

When I was five my dad took me to my first hockey game in St. Louis at the Old Checkerdome. He still talks about the day in January when he took me to our 4th row seats and how he was amazed that a 5 year old could sit through a 2 1/2 hour game and all I did was watch and ask questions. As he said, "You weren't one of those kids who would get bored, complain, want food every 10 minutes, you just wanted to watch the game." To this day, if I am not at the game with my dad, I call him after the first period of every game. Eighty-two times a year we break down the period, talk about our day, and just catch up. Hockey and the love for our beloved Pens is a bond that we share and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I remember in December, the Pens were beating the Buffalo Sabres on the road for their 12th straight victory. I was watching the game with my wife at a local Italian restaurant in Fox Chapel(she includes the Pens on our date night....even our wedding) and stepped away to call my dad after the first period. Rookie and first game call-up Dustin Jeffrey scored his first goal, the Pens were all over the Sabres. I couldn't wait to call my dad.

I consider myself a pretty honest fan. I am probably a little tougher on my team than most, and I try to look at my team from an unbiased opinion. This conversation was different. I saw something in the Pens that made me feel that they were ready to challenge for the Cup. I saw a balanced team with the best player in the league (Sidney Crosby), a dynamic player in Evgeni Malkin, and a much better defense than we saw in the 2010 squad. They were good! Six weeks later, Crosby and Malkin were hurt, (Malkin would tear his ACL 2 weeks later) and the balance on the team was eroding with injuries.

Maybe this is why the Game 7 loss hurts more than most. I feel like I have been punched in the gut. I didn't expect Pittsburgh to win the series. I picked Tampa. What hurts is as a fan, after witnessing my team sell off their players from 2002-04, I know they had a chance, a good chance to bring Lord Stanley home. Nowadays, you only have so many opportunities to win. In the salary cap era, it is hard to stay on top, and when you have a chance you better take full advantage. This season I thought was supposed to be the year they made a serious run, but they never had the chance. In my Rolodex of a brain, I will always wonder what could have been.

Well now on to Game 7. The Penguins jumped all over the Lightning the way I expected them to come out in Game 5. They won faceoffs, battles for loose pucks, and were peppering Tampa netminder Dwayne Roloson with shots. They left the first period scoreless but it felt like they were losing. The team had a hard time scoring all series, but when you play your best and you still can't cash in, you have to feel deflated. I have to give Roloson a lot of credit. Most analysts said the Penguins advantage in net would be a huge reason why they would win, but Roloson was not only stopping shots, he wasn't allowing rebounds. People, including myself, seem to forget how good he was in the playoffs in 2003 with Minnesota and 2006 with Edmonton. Rolson kept them in the game long enough for the Bolts to find their game in the 2nd.

Tampa came out in the 2nd and looked like the team that played 60 minutes of great hockey in Game 6. They regained the edge in the faceoff circle, used their speed in the neutral zone, stopped turnings pucks over, and created chances by driving to the net. The goal that Sean Bergenheim scored was a replay of his Game 6 goal. You would think the Pens would make an adjustment and know that Moore can make that pass, but they were out of position. Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen was wandering towards the Squirrel Hill Tunnel (Pittsburgh traffic nightmare) instead of covering the weak side defender and it was costly.

If your a Penguins fan, the theme of this series was the power play. Tampa scored 8 power play goals and Pittsburgh scored 1. The Lightning played with reckless abandon at times as they gave the black and gold chance after chance to get back in games, but with the exception of Tyler Kennedy in Game 4, they couldn't take advantage. As easy as it is to point the finger at the Penguins, you have to give the Lightning credit. They were constantly in the shooting lanes, they took away the front of the net, blocked shots, and they were tougher than the Penguins.

The 3rd period the Penguins took a lot of shots at Tampa, but with the exception of Tyler Kennedy almost putting home a rebound, the Pens were one shot and done. I thought what Tampa did well was make the Pens travel 200 feet to get a scoring chance. The Lightning forced the Pens back into their own end every time they had a chance to clear the puck. Pittsburgh had one final opportunity with the man advantage, but a season that had all the promise in the world had Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, and others out there for the final 90 seconds. This wasn't how I envisioned a series ending back in December, but the reality was and is, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a better, deeper team that the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As a take quick glance to next year, my boys have 10 unrestricted free agents. I don't expect to see Eric Godard, Mike Comrie, Dustin Johnson, Alexei Kovalev, or Chris Conner back. I wouldn't be shocked if Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot and Mike Rupp are gone. There are a lot of character, hard working guys, who probably won't be back. To win in the NHL you need front line scorers and good role players. When you have that mix you are dangerous. This year the role players were forced to be front line players and that is why we are talking about the Penguins losing in the first round.

Going forward, I think the Lightning have as good a chance as any to beat the Capitals. They have experience, two good offensive lines, and a lethal power play. Tampa has to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box against Washington (they won't go 1-35 on the PP), and they need to be more aggressive on offense. The Penguins posed no threat on offense so Tampa could sit on leads without fear. Against Washington no lead is safe. Tampa needs to be aggressive against the Caps.

My 3 Penguins stars for the series.
3) Max Talbot - He was all over the ice and created offense, especially in Games 3-5.
2) Craig Adams - The man is a shot blocking machine. It is hard to believe we got him off of waivers in 2009. Craig Adams will help a team win the playoffs, I just hope he is with the Pens next year.
1) Marc Andre Fluery - People in Pittsburgh got on Fluery for his performance in Games 5 & 6, but the team around him failed in those games. Fluery was the reason they won game 1,3 and 4. He had all the pressure on him because his offense couldn't produce more than 2 goals and he came up big. People will remember the loss in game 7, but I hope they don't forget how well Fluery played. When the Pens were down 1-0, he made 3 or 4 great saves to keep the game in reach.

It has been fun writing about the playoff series. October seems like a long ways away.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Let's Review Game Sechs (That's enough, Audrey!)

So I plan on watching Game 7 in my bedroom, on a laptop with headphones on. Exciting, eh? My stomach is a wreck already and I have no focus at work. So let's go back to Monday night and re-live some Game 6 action.

Game Six is in the books and now everyone in our two towns is focused on Game 7. But how did we get to this place? Simply put the “real” Lightning finally showed up. And by that I mean Monday night’s game was the first time in the series that the Bolts actually outworked their opponent. Sure they’ve outscored them in other games, but in Game Six they did all of the little things that win playoff hockey games and they did them better than the Penguins. They blocked shots, broke up passes, won battles along the boards and out-skated the Penguins.

Even though the ice tilted towards Pittsburgh’s advantage with all of the power plays the Lightning were the more energetic team. At one point I sent you a text saying that Kris Letang looked exhausted, that could be said for most of the Pittsburgh skaters at that point. To me it looks like their style of play since January has finally caught up with them. Whereas on the flip side the Lightning looked fresher and seem to be getting the hang of this playoff intensity thing.

You are correct when you say offense is the Achilles’ heel of your squad. Once Tampa went up by 2 in the third it was hard to believe that your flightless birds could muster up the scoring to bring it even. That being said there were three moments that I thought turned the game and decided it in favor of Tampa Bay.

1. Chris Conner’s penalty shot. – I thought he had the right approach. Come in with speed, quick deke and hope it beats Rolosson. Unfortunately, due to the ice or the hockey gods the puck didn’t cooperate. If he scores there the Pens keep the momentum they had built up prior to that call. Instead it seemed to take the wind out of their sails for a bit.
2. The two pad save by Rolosson – Right before Steve Downie put the Bolts ahead for good, Roli made two unbelievable saves on Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis. The one on Dupuis featured an old-fashioned stack of the pads that you don’t see very often in the age of butterfly goalies.
3. Kris Letang rattles one off the post – Down by two in the waning moments of the game, Letang fired a shot through a screen and past Rolosson. Luckily for the Lightning it hit the post square and bounced to safety. If that puck goes in it is Katy bar the doors time for the rest of the game.

An honorable mention goes to the deflected puck by Victor Hedman on young Mr. Conner’s two-on-one opportunity. The puck nicked Vic’s stick just enough to go wide. All-in-all a rough night for the diminutive Penguin forward.

Instead of players lets go with my three top highlights of the night

1. Dominic Moore’s no-look pass to Bergenheim. It was a thing of beauty because the only two people on the ice that knew it was coming were Moore and Bergenheim. The fact that Fleury almost got a pad on it was a miracle.
2. The aforementioned save by Roli. It was a huge momentum shifter and it led to…
3. Steve Downie’s goal – The enigma that is Tampa’s Little Ball of Fury, Downie showed his good side in Monday night’s game by scoring a goal and helping on two others. And he managed to go a whole game without picking up a misconduct penalty despite being hit in the face with a puck.

It brings us to Game 7. It will be the Lightning’s first Game 7 since they hoisted the cup in 2004 against Calgary. All bets are off. Whatever team forces the most turnovers and creates the most bounces their way will win this game. It will probably be a mucky affair with a lot of neutral zone play and dump-ins. Normally I would say that favors the Pens, but I think they’re out of gas. Bolts win 3-1 with goals from Stamkos (PP), Nate Thompson and St Louis (EN).

I watched Game 6 at my house. It was the first playoff game i had watched in Plum, PA since Game 6 Montreal. That was the game where my wife thought Jesus Christ's last name was Goligoski. I try not to freighten her with playoff hockey. She was doing some reading for work and I almost put her into cardiac arrest when I yelled when Staal tied the game.

I don't know if Kris Letang is exhausted but i know he sure is frustrated. the blueliner hasn't had a goal in over 30 games and 2 since Crosby went out with his concussion. Chief, I read your thoughts on Letang, I just think the Pens miss Sergei Gonchar more than they relaize.

My thoughts on Game 6. The Lightning were the better team from the drop of the puck. Someone who would just read the box scores would tell me, "Jay, the Pens have outshot the Bolts all 6 games.". My answer to that is simple. they are taking shots from center ice and anywhere they can within 90 feet. The Penguins lead the series in shots, but Tampa leads the series in quality shots and Game 6 was a prime example. The Pens made the most notible chances (Connor 2 on 1 and penalty shot, and the 3 stops on Talbot and Dupuis) but Tampa consistenly created quality chances while creating traffic in front of Fluery every game. The mood in the Burgh is that Fluery is playing poorly, but I would strongly disagree. Since the start of Game 5, Lightning forward are constantly in front of Fluery and the majority of the goals scored are on rebounds. That says more about the Pens not clearing the front of the net than Fluery playing poorly.

I have to give credit to Guy Boucher. The Tampa coach had his team alter their game plan after Game 4 and it has worked. Tampa started getting more traffic in front of Fluery and made it a point tohit the Pittsburgh defenseman. Since Game 4, the Pens defenseman look uncomfortable. Also, you have to give him credit for inserting Marc Andre Bergeron in the lineup. The offensive defenseman can run the 2nd power play unit and his play on defense has been better than expected.

Dan Bylsma on the other hand has not made any lineup changes or adjustments (not even on the power play). In fairness to Disco Dan, i am not sure what else he can do. His two options at forward are Mike Comie and Eric Tangradi. There is a strong sentiment in Pittsburgh that Alexei Kovalev should be stratched. I am a huge Kovalev supporter but have to admit he has been invisible, except for taking 6 penalties in the series. The reason I play Kovalev is that he has the skill to break out and he is better than anyone else you have to replace him.

Here are some Game 7 tidbits from the Pens side of the ledger
* They have never won a Game 7 at home after losing Game 6 (0-5 in franchise history)
* Pittsburgh has a losing record at home in the last two playoffs (4-6)
* The power play is 1-31 in the series and 3-72 against playoff teams
* Since 2007, this group has played in 3 game 7's. In 2009 beat Washington and Detroit, and in 2010 lost at home to Montreal

i thinkwe will see talent beat will tonight at the Consol. The Penguins don't have finishers while Tampa does. 2 early first period goals propell the Lightning to a 6-2 victory.My wife will get her husband back until college football starts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Question for all of those addicted to trading cards...

Do any of you fellow collectors out there have a beckett from may or june of 1990? I have a question that needs answering for a totally non-blog related project. If you do, drop me an email at yerf (at)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten Goals Divided by 2 Guys Equals Game Five Review

As most websites are previewing Game Six on Monday night, we here at the Hopeless Chase reflect on a dominant Lightning victory from two days ago. Is Jason still at Tully's? Is Just chasing a new profession? Who knows? You will if you read below.


So I figured I'd take 24 hours to reflect on the epic 8-2 Lightning victory in game 5. There's something relieving about the team you support breaking a game by scoring early (and often). It eliminates a lot of stress that's normally associated with following a play off game, case in point the five years of your life you lost in Game 4.

That being said I wish I'd been able to see more of the game. I was relegated to the dulcet tones of Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito despite the fact that I was actually in the Tampa Bay Area while the game was being played.

Because I wanted to see what it was like to be a craftsman I volunteered to help out our buddy Saint Leo Mike and his wife with a nice day of house painting. Let's just say I won't be changing jobs anytime soon. My shoulders haven't gotten that great of a workout since, well never.

So I missed seeing what the Lightning did different that allowed them cash in seemingly on every offensive opportunity they had. It wasn't that they shot the puck more (their 26 shots were only slightly higher than their 24 total penalty minutes). They did win more face offs as all of their normal draw takers were over 50% except for young Mr. Stamkos. Nor did it seem they were dominating any aspect of the game other than the scoreboard. As a matter of fact Mishkin pointed out that the Penguins dominated much of the early game despite the Bolts posting a 2 goal game.

They did go 4-7 with the man advantage as they continue to dominate the Penguins on special teams. So that's good. Steven Stamkos finally found the back of the net (twice!) so that's good, too. If he's finally acclimated to the playoff atmosphere he will be the deciding factor in the series.

The Penguins have stayed in this series by grabbing early leads and playing a Devils-style bunker mentality and relying on the stylistic saves of Marc-Andre Fleury. They've been assisted by the inability of Lightning players that aren't named Martin St. Louis to put the biscuit in the basket. So to see names such as Stamkos and Gagne on the score sheet under the goals category is a tremendous relief.

Now can they carry that over to Game Six on Monday? Hopefully. One thing about blowing an opponent in the playoffs is that it is almost easier for the defeated team to bounce back. Ask the Detroit Red Wings how that 5-0 win in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals worked for them against the Penguins. I'll save you the Google search - it didn't. The Penguins won the next two games and the Stanley Cup.

Losing by such a large margin allows the Penguins to brush this game off (something a 3-1 series lead makes easier) and they can focus on getting back to their game plan in Game Six. A game plan that involves them blocking shots, disrupting passes and being general pains in the asses.

As my time draws brief I will only give you the stars of the game:

Stamkos - 2 goals and he's off the schneid. His confidence has to be back and that could spell doom for the Penguins.
Gagne - He got the all important first goal and fourth goal. The Penguins were pressuring the Bolts when it was 3-0 and if they had scored the outcome would have been different. Gagne scored instead, chasing Fleury and the rout was on.
Ted Purcell - he had a couple of assists and some dandy passing with Lecavalier. So yea!

Prediction for Game Six - the Bolts pull out a close one 2-1 setting up a Game Seven in Pittsburgh and the dramatic return of Sidney Crosby.

Your thoughts?


Wow, what a contrast of emotions between Games 4 and 5. It has been a while since I have seen the Pens get throttled at home in the playoffs (ed note - worst home playoff loss ever). After the second period, while eating a pulled pork sandwich (my pick at the Consol), my dad and I watched countless number of fans exit the building. I have to admit I looked at my dad after the LeCavalier goal and said, "this game is over." Saturday's game went from a scoreless game to 5-0 in what seemed like five minutes. Oh how I miss the days when the Penguins boasted a roster of dangerous scorers. I remember the 1992 power play when had Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchett, Ron Francis, and Larry Murphy.

The 2011 team must rely on Arron Asham, Mike Rupp, and roster full of guys who should be playing 8 minutes a game to fill the net. It just isn't going to happen unless the Pens get some bounces. The current group of Penguins remind me of the 1995 New Jersey Devils.

I have said numerous times before on this blog that the Pens lack of talent would catch up to them in the series, and Tampa may have found their offense in Game 5. Tampa won every battle along the boards, won faceoffs, and physically beat up the Pittsburgh defensemen. For the first time in the series, Tampa was the better team playing 5 on 5.

Most importantly for the Bolts, their top two lines were a force every shift they played during the final two periods. It also doesn't help that their power play is ticking around 40% for the series. Guy Boucher's troops are keeping it simple. Get the puck in the zone, shoot, and crash the net. Steven Stamkos and Simon Gagne scored goals by jamming home rebounds. If the Lightning continue to crash the net, their will be more loose pucks available in Game 6.

There is not much else to say about Game 5 so let's look at game 6.

What the Lightning need to do:
1) Don't Change a Thing
To quote Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits singing Henry VIII.."Second verse same as the first".

2) Get the first goal.
The team that has scored the first goal has won every game and the Pens need the first goal. I think the Lightning have enough firepower to overcome an early deficit, but the Penguins have to change their game if they fall behind by more than 1.

3) Crash the Net
Tampa scored their 2nd and 4th goal by jamming home rebounds. Marc Andre Fluery is very good but he does allow rebounds. The Lightning need to take advantage of this aspect of Fluery's game.

What the Penguins must do:
1) Forget about Game 5!
The beauty of the playoffs is you can lose by 6 or 1 and it is only one game. If the Penguins play like they did the first 37 minutes of Game 4, they will have success tonight.

2) Clear the Crease.
The Bolts consistently crashed the net and their 2nd and 4th goals came from 2nd and 3rd chance rebounds. Fluery has been good in the series, but he does give up rebounds.

3) My Daily Power Play Rant
The Penguins should decline their power plays. They are 1-24 in the series. If this were football I would decline any power play. Actually I think some personnel changes should be made. Pittsburgh should use Mike Rupp in front of the net. Jordan Staal and James Neal are not willing to pay the price to get in front of the net. Also, please move Alexei Kovalev to the point! PLEASE!!!

I think talent will overcome will and Tampa sends this series back to Pittsburgh with a 4-1 victory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

2 Guys x 2 E-Mails = Game 4 Review

Sure it's late, but if you've landed in this spot of the internet looking for timely news, well, sorry.

Justin half-asses 'cause he wrote it when he was still depressed and Jason re-visits Tully's and expounds on his overtime hockey history....

Here we go...


Well. We had our first nerve-wracking multiple OT game of the series. To tell you the truth, after the first period I didn’t think it would make it to OT. The Pens outplayed the Bolts for the entire first half of the game, dominating in both the faceoff circle and shots on the board. More importantly they continue to dominate in the “small things” department – winning the battle for the puck, blocking shots, breaking up passes, etc. James Neal double OT winner proves the cliché that there is no such thing as a bad shot in the playoffs.

While I’m sure you rocked Tully’s with a mighty roar when you realized the goal was in, I was left depressed on my couch with only a mild expletive to utter. To which my napping girlfriend responded with, “that’s too bad now go to bed”. I have a dreadful feeling that the series is over. Tampa Bay might pull out one more game, but I don’t see them having the gumption to pull out three in a row.

One thing that did give me a bit of hope was that from the St Louis goal that brought them back to 2-1 and on, the Bolts pressured the Penguins defense a lot more in the Pittsburgh zone. For the first time since game two they were causing turnovers and keeping the puck in the zone longer than 6 seconds. If they can do that from the drop of the puck on Saturday they might have a chance.

There’s not much more you can say about Martin St Louis. He is the heart and soul of the Tampa franchise and seems to be the one that is keeping them in this series. I was thinking about how there hadn’t been too many “pretty goals” in this series and then he undressed the Pens D and roofed a shot over Fleury from a near impossible angle. Now if only he wouldn’t miss wide open nets.

Three stars for the Bolts:

Roloson – Sure he has to stop that overtime shot from Neal, but without him in net Pens win 6-2 in regulation
Sean Bergenheim – Game tying goal and he was disruptive throughout the second and third period. Good to see him using his speed to frustrate the Pens
Martin St Louis – the smallest player on the ice has the biggest will to win.

Three duds

Dominic Moore – Probably set a record for the number of times getting kicked out of the face-off circle in one game.
Ted Purcell – Nowhere to be found in this series and this game. The Lightning need their secondary scoring to be more effective
Guy Boucher – If you dress Mattias Ritola, play him more than two and a half minutes. Oh and for Jeebus sake, get Stamkos off the point on the power play.

Prediction for Saturday – Penguins come out flat, get behind early and can’t catch up. Lightning win 4-3.


Well my Saturday night was once again spent at Tully's in Williamsvile, NY. I was expecting to be in Lansing, Michigan but a last second call from a customer in Hamilton, Ontario made me do a U-turn on the 401 west of London, Ontario. After a quick stop in Hamilton, it was the 403 to the QEW, crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge and then off to the Fairfield Inn and Suites at the Buffalo airport. A day in the life of the traveling broker but as a lifelong, die hard Penguins fan, the game was never far from my mind the entire day.

I haven't had my team involved in an overtime since last season when Pascal Dupuis ended the 1st round series with the Senators. When your team is in overtime, it is far from a joyous event. Every time your in the offensive zone you get excited that a goal may be forecoming. A trip to the defensive zone makes you feel like you are going to vomit and every shot by an opponent makes you feel like your heart is going to stop. Last night was no exception. The first overtime was non stop play and a tension filled penalty kill late in the 1st overtime. The 2nd overtime ended so unexpectedly when James Neal scored on a shot that I didn't even consider a scoring chance. Game 4 was an excellent example of the thrill and agony that playoff hockey can bring to the diehard fan.

Chief as much joy as I had seeing the puck hit the twine, I have to admit I do feel for you being on the losing end. It is a good thing your not a Flyers fan. I honestly think I would cheer for a team owned by Satan himself than cheer for Philadelphia.

Here are my top 6 Penguins playoff games since 1980
6) Penguins - Devils (1991, 1st Round, Game 2)...down a game to the Devils, Jagr scored a beauty to beat Chris Terrieri and the Pens were on their way to their first cup. I was there!!

5) Pengins - Red Wings (2008, Cup Finals, Game 5)
Detroit was ready to celebrate a Stanley Cup until Max Talbot tied the game with 30 seconds left. In the first 2 overtimes, Marc Andre Fluery played as well as a goalie could play and Petr Sykora won the game with a power play goal in the thrid OT.

4) Penguins - Capitals (1996, 1st Round, game 4)
Back in 1996 most cable systems did not have ESPN2. My cable did not and my sister and I went to Beef O'Brady's in Brandon, Florida. After regulation and three overtimes, Beef's closed and my sis and I were forced to speed to a sports bar 15 minutes away to catch the 4th overtime. With less than a minute left, Petr Nedved scored on the power play to tie the series at 2 games a piece. If you see this shot, it went thru so many bodies, sticks, and legs that Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig didn't have a chance.

3) Penguins - Flyers (2000, 2nd Round, Game 4)
The Penguins were up 2-1 in the series and the game went 5 overtimes until Keith Primeau scored midway thru the 5th overtime. I got to the game at 6:30 and left at 2:40 in the morning. The most painful game I had ever seen but the 3rd longest game in NHL history.

2) Penguins - Sabers (2001, 2nd Round, Game 7)
This was probably one of the tighest series in Penguins history. The Pens rallied from a 3-2 series deficit and won Game 7 at the HSBC Arena when defenseman Darius Kasparaitis beat Dominck Hasek over the glove and sent Pittsburgh to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1996.

1) Penguins- Rangers (1992, 2nd Round, Game 4)
The Penguins had beat the Capitals in 7 games and took on the President's Trophy winning New York Rangers. The Pens had a 1-0 series lead when Adam Graves slash broke Mario Lemieux's hand. Joey Mullen tore his ACL when Jeff Buekeboom kneed him and Bob Errey hurt his shoulder on a crosscheck. This was one of the only times I can remember pure hatred in this city for another team. People hated the Rangers and death threats were made against Adam Graves. In Game 4, (down 2 games to 1) the shorthanded Pens were down 3-1 with 10 minutes left and had to kill a major penalty. The Penguins killed the penalty and Ron Francis beat Mike Richter with a slapshot from 70 feet away. Seconds later Troy Loney stuffed home a Jagr pass to tie the game and Francis capped off an exhilirating win with a goal early in the 1st overtime. As I was leaving the game, I turned to my sister and said "We're winning the Cup!".

Now on to Game 4. The Penguins owned the first 37 minutes of the game. The Pens got to every loose puck, blocked shots, won faceoffs and controlled the tempo of the game. As good as the Pittsburgh defense played, their overall defensive play is because their forwards backchecked better than I have seen in a long time. Guys like Max Talbot, Craig Adams, Chris Conner, Mark Letestu, among others consistently hustled back into the Lightning zone and prevented Tampa from using their speed to gain the blue line.

As a playoff series unfolds, you see teams alter their attack. The Penguins are shooting the puck on Tampa goaltender Dwayne Rolsson from the red line in. It is evident that puckhandling is not a strong suit of the 41 year old netminder and the Penguins are exploiting this. The power play (FINALLY got a goal) is starting to use some speed in gaining the offensive zone and found a way to get quality shots on goal.

The game changed on the St. Louis goal late in the 2nd.. The man may be only 65 inches tall, but he is carrying the team on his shoulders. He scored an amazing goal late in the 2nd and was everywhere on the ice in the 3rd. In the third the Bolts finally pressured the Penguins and created turnovers. For the first time in the past two games, Tampa was able to create offense at center red and not being their own cage. Once they got in the offensive zone, they got shots from the point, and got traffic to the net which led to the Sean Gergemheim goal with 3 minutes left. This is the Lightning team I expected to see all series.

After the Bergemheim goal late in the 3rd, the Penguins immediately went back on the attack. Pittsburgh did what they had done early in the game. The flightless birds controlled overtime and ended the evening with the Neal goal.

If you are Don Bylsma you wouldn't change a thing. Pittsburgh doesn't have the offensive skill to open the game up and they need to stick with the formula that got them 3 goals in 4 games. If were Guy Boucher I would try to open up the game. Tampa has superior skill to the Penguins and they need to use it. The Bolts haven't been able to solve the Pens backchecking. My gameplan would be to open up the game and activate my defense and have them look to create offense. This would back off the Penguins backchecking and give the forwards more space enetering the offensive zone. The only offensive play a Lightning defenseman has made all series is the Eric Brewer goal in Game 2, and that was a fluke pinch by Kris Letang on a 4 on 4.

3 Penguins stars of the Game
* Tyler Kennedy - another solid game for the right winger. He is continuing this stellar play after his 1st 20 goal season.
* Craig Adams - he is a human shotblocking machine. He plays over 75 games a year, is a smart defensive player and wins faceoffs. Adams is an unsung hero on the Pens.
* Brooks Orpik - most people look at his hitting, but his skating is slowing the Tampa offense down.

Penguins missing in action
* Alexei Kovalev - the man has hands of gold but legs of a 38 year old who has lost a step
* Mark Letestu - his quietest game of the series...he didn't play poorly, but wasn't noticeable. Maybe part of this is he played on the same line as Kovalev.

The Penguins have had a hard time closing teams out at home. Last year they lost to Ottawa in 3 overtimes on a Matt Carkner goal and lost to Montreal in Game 7 at the final game at the Mellon Arena. I think the trend continues as the Ligthning win 2-1 game in overtime.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Game Three Review - The Tully's Edition!

This one is a bit late, but hey better late then never! Sorry about the typos. I'm posting this before I go to work and don't have a chance to edit. In this edition we learn where Jason sites in the New Igloo and his quick review of an East Syracuse sports bar......


Well, to start off with I think this was the best played game of the series by both teams. It looks like they are settling in and starting to figure each other out a bit. The keys to winning has been scoring the first goal, having a lead going into the third and then frustrating the opposing team. The Lightning played their best 2nd period of the series, but still struggled to get into a flow offensively. Too many one rush and done attacks (which reminds me of the old arcade game Rush n’ Attack, but I digress).

Stamkos and Hedman look like they haven’t ramped up to the playoff intensity. It looks like they are playing at regular season speed out there. Marty St Louis continues to be the MVP for this team and continues to show why the number 26 will be the first number retired by the organization. Lecavalier had another strong game, he’s doing what Malone hasn’t been able to do. Which is get in front of the net and cause some chaos.

I think we’ll see our first roster changes in game four as Mr. Downie and Mr. Kunitz could be enjoying some beach…er bench time courtesy of the NHL. Downie was way too amped up in the first period and left his feet to hit Lovejoy. Kunitz, well that was as blatant an elbow as you can have.

The Lightning took a while to settle down and by the time they did, the damage was done. I think they were the better team after they were down 2-0, but by then the Pens were content to go into “New Jersey Devils” mode and wait back to shut down their attack. They should be a little more even in Game 4, but it’s a shame they wasted the opportunity to keep home ice advantage in the series.

Other than the first goal I thought Roloson had his best game – the stop on Neal was highway robbery. Fleury was strong when he had to be, but the Pens did another phenomenal job of blocking shots at the point. The faceoff stats were pretty much even (36/35 in favor of the Pens) but I thought Pittsburgh won the more important draws (i.e. offensive zone face-offs). For instance Jordan Staal was at 44% overall, but 60% in the Lightning zone.


Well Game 3 took me away from my home away from home, section 205, row F seat 1 and to the fine establishment of Tully's in Williamsville, NY (outside of Buffalo). First of all, it was cool to watch the Pens-Bolts and the Sabers-Flyers game at the same time. second, if you find yourself in Western NY, get the Tully's tenders. They rock.

As for Game 3, it is always good to get the first goal, but it was a goal Rolsson should have stopped. Chris Conner set a small screen in front of the Tampa netminder as Max Talbot shot the puck, but it was a shot he should have stopped in his sleep. The 2nd goal, less thana minute later, was a great individual play by Mike Rupp. He faked Victor Hedmen out of his jock at the blue line, then threw a great backhand pass over to Aaron Asham for an easy goal. He first thought, "That was Mike Rupp??"

After the 2nd goal, Lightning coach Guy Boucher called a timeout and for the rest of the game I thout the Lightning were the better team. Chief, I agree with you that the Pens sat back and tried to win the game by scoring only 2 goals. Welcome to the new style of Pittsburgh Penguins hockey. Get a lead and hold on for dear life. I guess it is a good strategy when your goalie plays as well as Marc Andre Fluery. The man stood on his head all game and is the reason Tampa scored 2 goals and not 6.

The Penguins power play continues to amaze me that they are so inept and their penalty killing does not have an answer to stop the Tampa man advantage. The Lightning enter the zone with ease and they look like a team that expects to convert on the man advantage. Martin St. Louis may be the most under-appreciated player in the NHL. The man just flat out produces. I do have to mention and agree that Rolsson played great after the first goal...what a stop on Chris Conner late in the game. Should be the play of the night.

If you saw the game you saw the hits thrown Chris Kunitz and Steve Downie. Kunitz hit against Ggane resembled the Matt Cooke hit and Downie tried to jump over the boards to hit Ben Lovejoy. Ithi Downie gets a game and Kunitz gets 3. If this happens, it is a bigger loss to the Pens. They need Kunitz in the lineup and to produce. Downie is a productive player but the Bolts have enough firepower to get thru a few games without him.

Penguins 3 stars
Marc Andre Fluery - He had another great game and kept the Lightning at bay as tried to ge the go ahead goal.
Mike Rupp- On a team that doesn't have much offensively, you need a guy to step up and make a grat play and he definately did
Max Talbot - Tyler Kennedy deserved consideration, but Talbot got the big first goal and more importantly was out there against the Tampa big buns as they tried to tie the game. I haven't seen Talbot play this well since the 2009 playoffs.

Pens players that need to step it up
Paul Martin - has passed poorly all series, has missed checks, and looks lost on the 2nd PP unit.
Chris Kunitz - the only thing he did was throw an elbow at Simon Gagne....ladies and gents, welcomeMike Comrie to the Pens lineup.
James Neal - he created some opportunities but he needs to finish one chance
Alex Kovalev- if he wasn't crushed into Rolsson, i wouldn't have known that he played


Tully’s appreciates the fine words, I’m sure.

Well the ban-hammer has come down and both Downie and Kunitz will be sitting for one game per the NHL. Possible replacements? I’m thinking the Lightning roll with 7 defensemen with Randy Jones suiting up and maybe a Mr. Hilary Duff himself gets 5 minutes of ice time. Bigger loss for the Pens I think simply because the Bolts have more depth to play from.

I’m developing a strong dislike for Aaron Asham, by the way. Only the Lightning should have gritty, 4th line grinders that chip in the occasional goal. That’s the way the playoffs go, the team that wins a series is usually the one getting secondary scoring from the grinders. Just for knowledge’s sake – Dominic Moore had 20 minutes of ice time in the game.

St Louis has 52 points in 48 career playoff games including 7 game winning goals in the playoffs. The Lightning as an organization only have 27 playoff wins. So he is definitely a producer when it counts.

Three starts for the Lightning last night

Dwayne Rolosson – his stops on Conner and Neal kept the Bolts within striking distance.
Vincent Lecavalier – Showing he’s the captain for a reason
Marty St Louis – Mr. Lightning adds to his legend

Three non-stars

Steven Stamkos – He picked up an assist, but still has been ineffective at best. He has to show that he can make the leap to the next level to be considered a true star in the league
Victor Hedman – He looks like his confidence is shot right now.
Steve Downie – Two bad penalties (even if one was negated by the goal) and now he costs his team by getting suspended.

I look for Game 4 to be a carbon copy of Game 3. The Lightning pushing the action with the Pens countering. The Bolts figure out how to beat Fleury at even strength and on the power play for a 4-2 win.

How about the announcement that Game 5 will start at noon on Saturday? Enjoy a nice latte with your hockey, bub!


Tully's is the best bar in the Buffalo suburbs that really caters to hockey fans. chiefer if you make your way up here, we'll go and watch some pucks.

My thoughts on tonight are that Eric Tangradi, not Mike Comrie, will be in the lineup tonight. Tangradi has played 1 games since his concussion back in February and looked decent against Atlanta in the season finale. Comrie has played a few games late in the season and wasn't noticeable. Mr. Hilary Duff's only goal this year was an empty netter. Tangradi will give them some size and toughness and has a big upside. Considering the Pens top line is now their 4th line, I expect Tangradi to play on the wing with Staal and Kennedy.

I have a good feeling about tonight. The Pens will get a power play goal. I know i am going out on a limb but I think they will get 1 and possible 2 goals on the man advantage. Fluery will face over 40 shots and the Pens will win 4-3 heading back to Pittsburgh. I don't base this prediction on knowledge but just a hunch that the Pens will find their groove on the PP.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Guys, Game Two, One Column

Game two is in the books and the series is tied at two. It looks like the playoff beard will grow a little bit longer as the Lightning win guarantees a game five. The Bolts offense broke out for five goals, including an empty netter by Mattias Ohlund (his first in two seasons as a member of the Lightning).

I brought Jason back for his insights. As I expected he didn’t like what he saw.

Justin G:

So, you're probably feeling a little different about game two then you were about game one, but from what I saw both games were kind of similar. The main difference being the power play chances. Mainly, the Lightning got more and it led to them cashing in a couple of times.

I'd mentioned a couple of times that it was important for the Lightning to beat Fleury early and they did. The two best players for the Lightning for me were Eric Brewer and Nate Thompson. Brewer was all over the ice early in the game and Thompson played textbook Guy Boucher hockey.

I'm still worried about the Lightning's inability to get the puck out of the zone when the Pens can set up their fore-check. Hedman looks like a rookie out there on the ice. I thought Stamkos played better than he did in game one. Hopefully, he gets off the schneid in game three.

As an attendee if the game what differences did you see?

Jason L:

What I saw from the Lightning in Game 2 was what I thought I would see in Game 1. Tampa looked quicker, their power play was effective against the league’s best penalty killing unit, and they won a lot of battles for loose pucks.

Friday night the big guys returned for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis was able to use his speed and back off the Penguins defense and like the veteran he is, Vinny was constantly going to the front of the net and other than the final 10 minutes of the 2nd period, they controlled the pace of the game. In the playoffs, you don't score pretty goals, you score goals in front of the net. That is why the Bolts tallied 2 with the extra man.

As impressive as the first two periods were, I was extremely impressed with their third period. They played a patient game, stood the Penguins up at the blue line, and made the safe, simple play to get the puck out of the zone. They didn't give the Penguins any chances as they tried to erase a 3 goal deficit. Tampa was impressive down the line...what else can you say?

On the Penguins side of the ledger, they came out flying. Tyler Kennedy had an early 2-on-1 that as stopped by Dwayne Roloson, they fore-checked, and then Kris Letang made an awful pinch in the offensive zone which led the first Lightning goal by Eric Brewer. After that play, the Penguins were not the same. A few players on the Pens had awful games. Jordan Staal was ineffective and was easy to knock off of the puck. Pittsburgh's big 3 defenseman, Paul Martin, Zbenyk Michalek, and Leang were awful. Letang makes me wish they had Sergei Gonchar back to run the point, Michalek cannot play the point on the power play, and Martin looked slow and panicked under pressure.

The biggest issue in the Penguins is the power play. They are 0-13 for the series and are clicking at 5% over their last 100 chances. They are not scoring, but worse is that they can't establish an attack when on the man advantage. You can't win a playoff series without a power play that cannot convert.

If the Lightning outplay the Pens in the first period again, the Pens may be in a hole they can't climb out of. This is a team that cannot come from behind


Wholeheartedly agree with you on the Lightning winning the battles for the puck. I'm still concerned about their "jailbreak" defensive zone coverage from time to time, Roloson can only bail them out so many times.

The Pens were definitely deflated a bit after the Bolts scored twice on their first three shots. Tampa was also much better on the faceoffs, which helped them control the puck a bit more in the third.

One interesting thing I noticed was that Boucher put the "Big Three" together for a lot of shifts in the second period. I wouldn't be surprised if he did that more now that he has the last change with the series in Tampa.

The Lightning did go 2/6 on the power play, but I don't like Stamkos at the point. At this stage in his career he's not the best passer of the puck. I understand Boucher wanting to give him some space away from the Pens D, but it's not his strength.

Despite having zero fear of the Pens' power play, they have to stop taking so many penalties. 13 penalty kills in two games is unacceptable, if you keep giving them chances they will eventually cash in, which gives them confidence, which is bad.

I see the Lightning pulling out game three 3-2. Your prediction?

If the Penguins were better at scoring I would be more concerned about the breakout passes. The biggest difference between these two teams is the Lightning are talented enough to score 5 goals on 20 shots while Pittsburgh needs bounces to score more than 3 in a game. A big question in this series is where are Steven Stamkos, James Neal, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz. These 4 players are expected to produce and aren't noticeable in the series.

Here are my Penguins keys to Game 3
1) The power play has to look like a power play. After watching hockey for the better part of 30 years you can't win in the playoffs without a power play. I think the Penguins need to work the puck behind the net and hope to create traffic that way. The current strategy of passing around the perimeter is failing. I mentioned it before game 2, they need to try Kovalev at the point.
2) Play a better first period. In games 1 & 2 the Lightning were the far better team in the first stanza and for a team that can't score goals, falling behind could be fatal.
3) Stay out of the penalty box. The Lightning have too much talent on the PP and if you give them 5 chances a game, my guess is they will find the net at least once.

Keys for the Lightning
1) Pressure the Pittsburgh defenseman. Last game when Letang, Michalek, and Martin were pressured, they turned the puck over. I believe the speed of the Tampa forwards overwhelmed the Pens and they need to use their speed to their advantage.
2) Quit taking dumb penalties. Chief, I agree with you on this point. You can't take 13 penalties in 2 games and expect a team o be completely inept on the power play. The Bolts should feel lucky that they are playing a team with an awful PP.
3) Avoid the 2nd period lapse. In the first two games the Bolts were dominated in the 2nd period. The Penguins were able to pressure Tampa shift after shift and if it wasn't for Roloson the Pens could have erased the 3 goal deficit in Game 2.

My prediction is a 3-1 Lightning win. The Penguins will need to survive the first 10 minutes and I don't think that will happen. Tampa is offensively the more talented team and against a team that struggles for goals this will be enough to carry the Bolts to a 2-1 series lead.

All photos lifted from the website.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Working Guys Break Down Game One

I’ve decided to do something a little different for the playoffs. Instead of a recap with stats and major turning points of the game I decided to break it down with my buddy and hockey mentor Jason. He’s a true Penguins fan from birth and perhaps the biggest influence on my hockey career.

So here is a quick point, counter-point in response to Thursday night’s action. Just so you know he was actually at the Consol center while I was reduced to listening to the game on radio.

Justin G:

OK let me kick this off by congratulating the Penguins for winning their first playoff game in their new building. No Igloo curse here, apparently. That being said, if it’s possible for a goaltender to steal a victory in a home game, then MAF did that last night. His play in the first period altered the outcome of that game, most notably the stop on Malone that Mishkin mistakenly called a goal and made me look like a crazy person on the train because I gave a fist pump and a mild “yessss”. The Lightning better score early in game 2 or it might be over quick.

That being said, I liked the way the Lightning played for the first half of the game. Unfortunately spending nine and a half minutes on the penalty kill tends to kill any momentum that a team builds up. Friday they better limit the ticky-tack penalties and keep the pressure on. Stamkos (who might be feeling the effects of getting rocked on the first shift of the game) only had one shot on net. That’s not going to fly. St Louis only had two….rumor is he lost as many teeth when he ate a stick blade in the second period.

Roloson was serviceable, but overplayed Asham’s goal. The bolts caught a couple of rnlucky bounces, but can’t get discouraged going into game two.

Your thoughts?

Jason L:

I liked what Tampa did in the first period. They kept it simple. They got the puck to the point and crashed the net. This allowed them to do two things, get traffic in front of Fleury but it also did not allow the Penguins defense to start their breakout. That being said, I totally agree that Fleury stole the show the first 25 minutes of the game. The save on St. Louis and Malone were huge, but after a scoreless first period the stop on Lecavalier was a game changer. If Tampa scores early in the 2nd, it would have been a different game.

The game changed when the Penguins got the puck behind the Lightning defense and started to fore-check. The glaring weakness on the Lightning is their lack of depth on the blue line and in the last 35 minutes of the game the Penguins exploited this. Every line Pittsburgh threw on the ice did the same thing, they hit the Tampa defenseman and hit Stamkos every time he touched the puck.

What did surprise me is Tampa's lack of success in the faceoff circle. The Penguins have been one of the worst faceoff teams in the league after Crosby's injury, but to consistently lose draws to Max Talbot and Jordan Staal in inexcusable. Nate Thompson and Adam Hall have to do a much better job or Tampa will put itself behind the eight ball. I was also a little surprised that the Lightning looked slow. As the game went along, the Penguins looked like the faster team. I didn't expect that coming into the series and I don't expect this in Game 2.

The Penguins power play continues to be a problem. With the exception of their first power play in the 2nd period, the Lightning penalty killers dominated the Penguins on the man advantage. The Bolts pressured Kris Letang and when they did he turned the puck over. In my opinion I think the Penguins might be better served using Kovalev on the point. He is the best passer on the team and can take some pressure off of Letang.

Chief (ed.note - college nickname), I do disagree with Roloson. I thought he played very well. He stood on his head in the 2nd period and the right pad stop on Letestu in the 3rd period was brilliant. He did look shaky at times in the first 10 minutes as he mishandled two weak wrist shots from about 45 feet away, but that could be playoff nerves. Roloson couldn't do anything on the Kovalev goal but he did misplay the Asham goal. Overall, one hiccup when you see 38 shots (a lot of quality chances) is a very good performance.

If I am Guy Boucher I tell my guys to play the way they did in the first period. Get the puck and get to the net. Tampa will have success in this series if they get in Fleury's face.
If I am Dan Bylsma I tell my troops to fore-check like crazy, hit Stamkos and Hedman whenever possible, and converting on the power play once a month would be beneficial.


I guess it’s the difference between seeing the game and listening to it on radio. Mishkin made it sound like Roloson was giving up a lot of rebounds, which is something that has plagued the bolts in the past. They need to block more shots in front of him, something the Penguins excel at, because if they’re giving up 40 shots a game they will not win this series.

The game last night was a carbon copy of the second half of the season. If they don’t score early, they get out of their game plan and stop pressing the puck which leads to more time spent in their own zone. You’re correct on the Pens needing to fore-check more, if there is a major weakness in Tampa’s game it’s getting the puck out of their zone. There were a couple of moments last night where they were 5 feet from the blue line and still couldn’t clear it.

I think it’s a bit of a unspoken about fact that if your physical with Stamkos early you can knock him off his game. He’s made great strides over the last couple of seasons, but he is still learning this game and finding that will to bounce back might be the next evolution of his game.

Lot of lightning fans were moaning about the officiating, but from what I could tell most of the Lightning penalties were earned. The questionable non call on St Louis will be debated over the next 24 hours (especially since he underwent a double root canal today), but it’s a tough call. He was falling to the ice and just happened to connect his face with the Penguin player’s stick.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see St Louis back on Stamkos’ line in game two as Boucher looks to spark them a bit. He’s been able to push the right buttons all season long, so let’s see what they have in the tank.

For what it’s worth here were the faceoff numbers according to

Lecavalier – 38%
Hall – 63%
Moore – 67%
Thompson – 20%
Stamkos – 46%

Letestu – 46%
Stall – 50%
Talbot – 53%


I saw St. Louis get hit in the face....I think I was the only one because it didn't get any kind of reaction. The biggest issue the Bolts has with their early penalties was retaliating. Sean Bergenheim tripped Orpik after a small altercation and took a stupid penalty. Hey, I understand that tempers can get the best of you, but in the playoffs you can't afford to take retaliation penalties.

I am shocked to see Talbot at 53%. As someone who watches every Penguins game, I wonder who is keeping those stats. The Pens best line was Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, and Chris Conner. I don't expect the Pens to make any line changes. If the Pens would struggle to get the puck in the net, it wouldn't shock me if Mike Comrie saw some action late in the series or possible Eric Tangradi.

If the Lightning want to win their series, they can't start their offense every shift from 200 feet behind their own net. The Penguins created tons of turnovers in the neutral zone and that led to their fore-check being so successful. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Lightning fall behind 2-0 in Game 2. Does Boucher change lines or stay the course?


I thought the Pens played pretty much the perfect game to win the series so no need to shake things up. Game two Boucher starts with the same lines, but if they struggle to score early he shifts St Louis to Stamkos’ line.

I see the Lightning bounce back for a 3-2 OT win in game two. Your prediction?


I agree I think you will see a different Lightning team. My prediction is they get a few power plays goals early (always seems to happen when a team hardly gets a PP chance the game before) and roll to a 3-1 win. These teams are too close to see a short series.

I will say this, if the Pens jump out early, I wonder how the Bolts will react.

Well folks, what did you think? Should we keep this going or did it bore you to tears? What did you think of game one?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Finally, the Playoffs Return To TAMMMMMPPPPPAAAAA!!!

So how does one write a playoff preview that isn’t like every other preview out there? Well, I don’t know so I’m not going to try. Besides, taking this serious would ruin the joy I’m experiencing as a fan whose team made it to the playoffs after 3 seasons spent wandering the NHL desert. It also means playoff beard! Maybe I’ll even post pictures….probably not, but you never know.

Anyway, back to the hockey preview. The Bolts reenter the second season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. A late season swoon cost them home ice advantage, but left them with a rather favorable match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This first round, four vs. five series features two teams that have struggled through injuries throughout the season and probably cost them one or two spots in the standings.

Rather than overwhelm you with breakdown of every aspect of the match up I’ll just give you what I think are going to be the two biggest aspects.


Man, I would love to find a way to say that the Lightning have an advantage between the pipes. Alas, this is one area where the Penguins have the decided advantage. Dwayne Roloson provided some stability for the Lightning after Mike Smith and Dan Ellis struggled to stop the pucks from finding the back of the net.

After a hot start, Roloson cooled a bit and finished with a 18-12-4 record. At 41 his durability will come into question with the condensed schedule over the next several weeks. Can his well documented work ethic keep him going or will he run out of gas and show his age?

Plus there is no way I would have gotten $10 for a Roloson jersey on eBay.

Marc Andre Fleury is their MVP. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes about it. He picked them up and carried them across the finish line when player after player left the ice for the trainer’s room. With one Cup under his belt he’s proven that he can handle playoff pressure, but will having to play in 657 consecutive 2-1 games finally wear him down?

Power Play vs. Penalty Kill

The Bolts were deadly with the extra man this season scoring 20.5% of the time (good for 6th in the league). The Penguins led the league in killing penalties having successfully defended their net 86% of the time. Refs tend to swallow their whistles a bit more in the playoffs than during the regular season so any man advantages that either team get will be important.

With a healthy Ryan Malone back in the lineup the Bolts can go back to setting up Steven Stamkos for his one timer. Malone’s big ol’ tattooed body will provide a nice screen in front of Fleury and he’ll be useful in batting home rebounds.

That being said, they have to be careful not to give up any short- handed goals. The Penguins will pressure the puck at the points and force the Bolts to make ill advised passes. With power plays being so few and so key in the playoffs, giving up short-handed goals can be a back breaker for a series.

On the flip side, the Bolts were decent killing penalties (83.8%) while the Penguins were anemic at best (15.8%) with the extra skater. Not having the best offensive creator in the game will do that to a team. If early on, the Pens continue to show their ineptitude the Bolts might play a bit more physically even strength.

Other Random Thoughts.

* Since February 19th Steven Stamkos has scored 5 goals. That’s 23 games. To put it in perspective, in a four game stretch in January Stamkos scored 6 goals. Why did I randomly pick the 19th of February, because it’s the anniversary of Thomas Edison patenting the phonograph, of course. Actually, it’s the game where the Panthers Mike Weaver sent Stammer into the boards extremely awkwardly and the hearts of Lightning fans skipped a beat.

There is not one mention of him being injured, just mention of how lucky he was to avoid serious damage to his knee and ankle. Coach Boucher has spoken about Stamkos being unlucky and is pleased with the opportunities he’s been getting during games.

This wouldn’t be the first time a team had been less than honest about a player’s health and I just have a sneaky suspioson that at whatever point the season ends, we’ll be treated to an “oh by the way Steven needs surgery on this or that” press conference.

If he isn’t hurt, then he needs to find that extra gear he started the season with because there is definitely something off about his game, and if it wasn’t for the reemergence of Vincent Lecavalier’s game then I might not be typing this preview.

* Who does Marty play with? The last few games have seen him skate with Lecavalier. But it’s undeniable that he shares chemistry with Stamkos as well. Is there any chance he can play on both lines? Forty minutes isn’t too long for a forward, right?

* Can Mario Lemieux petition the league to allow shoot-outs in the playoffs? Since January 1st they’ve gone to a shoot out or overtime 15 times, including a nice stretch at the end of March where they had to go to the shoot out in four straight games.

* I don’t like Matt Cooke, but I can acknowledge that his loss will be huge for the Penguins. His role as agitator is enhanced in the playoffs and his ability to chip in goals will be missed.

*Will seeing the Bolts 1-3-1 fore-check on a consistent basis be an advantage for the Pens? During the Bolts’ lull the skeptics claimed that other teams had figured them out. That talk died down when they won 7 of their last 8.

* Home ice advantage. The Ice Palace will be a very noisy place once the bandwagon fans pack in. Very loud. Will the new arena in Pittsburgh be as noisy? Who knows? The heat outside of the IP might be a factor on the play inside. If there are problems with the ice, it might help out the Penguins by neutralizing the Bolts speed advantage.

*Does Sidney make it back for this series? Can you imagine the pro wrestling crowd level pop if Crosby skates out for warm-ups in Game 5? If he does will he be a factor? He hasn’t played since Vic Hedman’s elbow planted his head against the glass in January. Crosby may be the best player in the game, but not having played at game speed in 3 months will take its effect on anyone.

* Final prediction - Bolts win in 6.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Playoff Time is Here!

And to celebrate I'll be bringing in a guest blogger to give us a little Penguin-centric preview. Don't worry faithful fan of the fighing Lightning, I'm working on my own preview as well.

Awesome Nolan Pratt photo was taken by awesomly named St Pete Times photographer Dirk Shadd.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Better Late Than Never - Stone Cold Locks For This Season

For the second season I'd like to bring in a guest prognosticator. After a semi-successful first stint my former co-worker SCL Mike looks into his crystal ball and lets us know what is going to happen.

He actually sent these to me a week ago, but I've been too lazy to post it. To make up for it I made that awesome logo above. My MS Paint skills grow by the day.

Let's not waste any more precious

I will first start out with the Rays SCL for individual players:

BJ Upton will hit 280 with at least 15 home runs and 40 SB’s

Manny Ray will hit 300+ with over 30 hr’s and 100+ rbi’s

Johnny Damon will hit 270.

Evan Longoria will hit the usual 290 but up the HR’s to 30+ and bust many caps with his new AK-47

Price will only have 12-15 wins

Neimann will win 15

Shields will win 16+ and have a huge rebound year.

Hellickson will Dominate

And the Dark Horse SCL for the year will be Brignac hitting 280+ while playing over 130 games at SS, erasing any memory of fan favorite Bartlett.

Now on to the AL east SCL’s :

The Red Sox will be a decent team, but with people in Boston treating CC worse than the hicks here treating BJ, CC will hit 280 with 12 hr’s and miss 20+ games due to injury. Adrian Gonzales will have a decline in stats while adjusting to the AL. The Staff, still relying on Beckett and Lackey will be subpar. They will have 2 huge injuries to star players, and not make the playoffs. Eat on that Peter Gammons.

The Yankees will have a rebound. Sabathia will roll through the AL and win the CY young. Burnett will have a good year, and Rivera will not be an effective closer. Look for their hitters to rebound and big years will come from Texiera, Arod, and granderson. AL EAST Champs.

The Rays will take the Wild card. Manny is going to be a media darling. The people who made these shirts will make millions:

The Blue Jays will be solid, but not put it together again, look for 85 wins.

Orioles will stumble again, but they will come on strong in the end. 83 wins max.

Lock that up!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Good Ol' Yankees Trade Bait

Update....both cards are gone.

To celebrate the best O's opening weekend since 1997, I've decided to post some bait for Yankee fans. Actually I was digging through some boxes at the old homestead and stumbled across these two cards.

In order to purify my collection from the stain of Yankee-ness I offer them up to you, my dear readers. Whatever you want to offer let me know - we'll work something out.

Just a fair warning - I am 99.9% sure I packed these in my suitcase. If not it might take an extra couple of days to send them up to me in Chicago.

First up is a Derek Jeter Pacific Omega EO Portraits. I have no idea what year it is (the card is hopefully in my checked baggage as I type this up). But it's a pretty cool card. To the right of the Yankees' logo, Jeter's face is pictured, but it's made up of tiny little holes punched into the card. Good stuff!

Second is a Gary Sheffield Grand Old Gamers Jersey. Again I don't have much more detail, but hey look it's a jersey card!

Oddly enough, both of these cars came from my days of busting re-package boxes from Toys R' Us of all places.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Hopeful Chase Day After Opening Day Predictions!

Editor's Note - This was originally written Thursday night 2 hours into a 4 hour delay at Midway Airport. With no free wireless connection most of the notes were dashed off without second thought. So I apologize for spelling errors and other errors of fact.

So what does one do when they’re stuck at Midway airport for the next four hours and doesn’t feel like paying for wireless access? Well, they come up with a baseball season preview that is based completely on what is stored in my head. That means no fact checking! It’s like writing before the internet was invented when I could just come up with baseless facts! Sweet!

Here we go with the predicting!

The O’s will be in the running to win more games then they lose for the first time since the late ‘90’s (see if I had internet access I could actually check what the last year was - thanks Midway!). I have them pegged for about 84 wins, good enough for fourth in the AL East.

Brian Matusz leads the team with 16 wins, evoking memories of former Oriole left-hander Jeff Ballard. After initially struggling in Norfolk fellow lefty Zack Britton makes his debut in early June and wins 7 games, losing out on at least two wins due to inexplicable bullpen meltdowns.

Five hitters crack the 20 home run barrier with Mark Reynolds pacing the team with 37. He also cracks 200 strikeouts for the fourth year in a row. Nick Markakis finally makes an All Star team and hits .315 and drives in 115. The Baltimore Bombers lead the league in home runs and strikeouts as Buck Showalter merges Buckball with Earl Weaver’s “get one of those big (expletive deleted) who can knock the ball out of the yard” philosophy to entertain a resurgent Camden Yards crowd.

I buy this shirt.

Brian Roberts makes it all the way through the season with only one trip to the disabled list and scores 100 runs. Adam Jones continues to prove the doubters wrong, hits .280 with 21 bombs and only swings at 45% of the sliders in the dirt.

Jake Fox and Felix Pie finish the season on different teams, while Nolan Riemold makes an impression with his June call up. The Catching Jesus settles in behind the plate, strokes a cool .287 with 23 doubles and 17 home runs.

That takes care of the O’s. Let’s see what happens in the rest of the league.

The Cubs make it to the playoffs, but fall short of the World Series. Led by Carlos Zambrano’s 19 wins (he misses a chance for 20 when he’s suspended for a week for trying to knock out Matt Garza) and Carlos Pena’s 42 home runs, the Northsiders keep the city in a frenzy until the weather turns cool.

Albert Pujols re-signs with the Cardinals after the All Star break for a 7 year contract that pays him more than Jeter, but less than Alex Rodriguez.

AL CY Young is CC Sabathia while the Rookie of the Year is Jake McGee who ends up saving 41 games for the surprising Rays. The Rays battle to the end of the year, but get edged out by the Yankees who bolster their staff mid season by adding Felix Hernandez.

The Red Sox fall apart, Carl Crawford fights a high ankle sprain all season and relives the frustration of his lost 2008 season. Terry Francona is fired in August when the Red Sox get massacred by the Yankees and drop out of contention.

The Atlanta Braves mildly shock the baseball world when they take the NL East from the heavily favored Phillies on the last weekend of the season. A healthy Jayson Hayward wins the inaugural Hopeful Chase Super Sophomore Award and Tim Hudson is one of only three major league pitchers to win 20 games (Sabathia and Roy Halladay are the others).

Yankees beat the Braves in a tremendous seven game series to win another title. Mariano Rivera retires and Derek Jeter announces he’s moving to 3rd base next season.

So there ya go.

Tomorrow, SCL Mike makes a triumphant return with his predictions!